With the Johnstown-Monroe High boys basketball team returning four starters from last season, coach Kevin Martin should be doing handsprings, right?

With the Johnstown-Monroe High boys basketball team returning four starters from last season, coach Kevin Martin should be doing handsprings, right?

Not so fast.

Despite the four starters back from a team that finished 9-13 overall and won six of its final nine regular-season games, those four are pretty much the only players back with any varsity experience.

"It's nice to have four returning senior starters back, but the only problem is that they are the only real experience we have on varsity," said Martin, whose team opens Friday with a non-league game at Westerville North. "We have experience, but also have some inexperience to go along with it."

The Johnnies return their leading scorer and rebounder in senior Riley Cannon. The 6-foot-5 senior post player averaged 12.6 points per game and 10.6 rebounds.

"Riley has been doing a much better job of being patient," said Martin, whose team plays a non-league game Dec. 8 at home with Heath. "Last year, he was in way to much of a hurry after catching the ball on the block. Now, he's looking to find teammates better when he does get doubled-down. We just need to surround him with some guys who can make the shots on the perimeter."

The three other returning starters are 5-10 point guard Cody Green, 6-0 shooting guard Michael Kessler and 6-3 forward Shawn Block. Kessler averaged 9.3 points per game and Green had 7.6 points and 2.5 assists. Block averaged 5.2 points and 3.1 rebounds.

"I think that our experience is a big strength," said Cannon, whose team opens MBC play Dec. 11 at Danville. "We have four returning starters and the guys know the speed of the game and what it takes to win."

Martin said the fifth starter will likely be 6-0 junior guard Patrick Benton or 6-3 junior forward Taylor Atwood.

Also on the roster are juniors Chad Fuller (6-0, guard/forward), Jon Holbrook (6-0, guard) and Bobby Morrison (5-8, guard), as well as sophomores Harley O'Flaherty (6-1, forward) and Matt Smith (6-0, guard/forward).

"I've been surprised by some of the younger guys like Matt Smith and Chad Fuller," Martin said. "Both have been playing extremely hard on the defensive end, which is good because a lot of times you don't have to play as hard on that side of the floor in j.v. and freshman ball."

Last season, the Johnnies tied for fourth in the MBC with Fredericktown at 7-7, behind Loudonville (12-2), Centerburg (11-3) and Utica (8-6). Northridge was sixth (6-8), followed by Danville (4-10) and East Knox (1-13).

"It's going be a tough go-around (in the league)," Martin said. "Last year, it was a junior-dominated league with all of the top teams -- Fredericktown, Loudonville, Centerburg and Utica -- all having good juniors. I think it's going to be a battle every night because a lot of teams have a decent amount of experience back.

"It won't be a cakewalk for anyone."

•The girls basketball team opens Monday with a non-league game at Thornville Sheridan. The Generals won 67-47 last season.

The Johnnies open MBC play Thursday at Danville. The teams split last season with Johnstown winning the first game 42-30 and losing 48-45 in the second.

Up next for the Johnnies is a home MBC game Saturday with Utica. The teams split last season with Johnstown winning 58-54 in double overtime in the first game and losing 60-40 in the second.



Dec. 4 at Westerville North

Dec. 8 vs. Heath

*Dec. 11 at Danville

*Dec. 15 vs. Utica

*Dec. 18 at East Knox

*Dec. 22 vs. Northridge

Jan. 2 at Ridgedale

*Jan. 8 vs. Loudonville

*Jan. 12 at Fredericktown

*Jan. 15 vs. Centerburg

Jan. 20 at Lakewood

*Jan. 22 vs. Danville

*Jan. 26 at Utica

*Jan. 29 vs. East Knox

Feb. 2 vs. Whitehall

*Feb. 5 at Northridge

*Feb. 9 at Loudonville

*Feb. 12 vs. Fredericktown

Feb. 16 vs. Highland

*Feb. 19 at Centerburg

*MBC game